Shearwater, 'Rook' (Matador)

Critical Mass
Label: Matador

by Jon Young

No longer a cloistered chamber-folk band, Shearwater follows the startling variety of 2006's Palo Santo with their even more stimulating fifth album. While Jonathan Meiburg's uneasy high quaver has always generated the kind of simmering intensity that made Jeff Buckley so gripping and unnerving, canny tonal shifts give his introspective songs a bristling, heightened urgency. Following the banging rocker "Century Eyes," on which Meiburg shouts, "Will I be the last to survive?" as if he's genuinely unhinged, the hazy delicacy of " I Was a Cloud" feels almost scary, rather than peaceful.

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